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News & Events
20th Apr

2009

Florida Time’s Union

A couple weeks before Jessica Green died, she said she wanted to give pep talks to others like her with Asperger’s Syndrome, a high-functioning form of autism.

A second annual Ride with Me for Autism will be held Saturday, April 25, in honor of Green, who died in 2007 at age 27.

Her mother, Helen Green of the Westside, told the story recently while hugging a pile of framed photographs of her ever-smiling daughter.

“She said, ‘I want to tell them to never give up, to keep believing and to know that there will be a better day,'” said Green, adding that she believes that on that day, her daughter gave her a farewell message and a mission that has kept her afloat in her debilitating grief.

On Dec. 19, 2007, Green found her athletic daughter had died in her sleep of an autism-related seizure. The single mother said Jessica was her best friend.

Over the years, Helen Green said, many said Jessica belonged in an institution. But her daughter only wanted a normal life, her mother said.

“I more or less gave up my life for her, cheering her on in whatever she wanted to do. I poured positive energy into her and didn’t let anyone put her down,” Green said, adding that Jessica was great at softball, bowling and bicycling. “She had a zest for life. We found a way to make a life together and it blossomed.”

Though Green’s spirit is weakened from her loss, she said her heart tells her to continue on her daughter’s legacy and to help children with autism.

And she is.

In February, Green spoke before Tallahassee legislators urging them not to cut funding for the Center for Autism Related Disorders, where she has served on a board for 10 years. And four months ago she established the Jessica Green Foundation Inc., a nonprofit aimed at providing support and assistance to families with an autistic loved one.

“I want to reach out, like my daughter had wanted to reach out,” she said sobbing. “Her life helped me.”

Green said she and her daughter were pioneers in promoting awareness about Asperger’s Syndrome, which has had little attention until recent years. They held meetings with neighbors and teachers to introduce Jessica and to explain her disorder and behaviors.

When Jessica Green graduated from Ed White High School in 1999, she was the first student diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome to graduate from a Duval County public high school.

She went on to Florida Community College at Jacksonville.

Throughout her life, she was fanatical about riding her mountain bike. She could pedal away her frustrations, her mother said. In the process, she made many visits to see Westside bike shop owner Charlie Fetzer.

“She wore out chains, tires and sprockets faster than most customers,” said a chuckling Fetzer, owner of LakeShore Bicycles & Fitness on Blanding Boulevard. “I watched her grow up.”

Saddened by Green’s death, Fetzer organized a bicycle ride in her honor last year. He’s sponsoring a second one this year.

“I’m probably not much different than Jessica. I always rode as a kid,” Fetzer said. “I don’t have any excuses but I went to summer school for eight years and had lots of struggles of my own. What I remember most about Jessica is that she was always smiling.”

April is Autism Awareness Month Autism is a brain development disorder characterized by impaired social interaction and communication and restricted and repetitive behavior. The number of people known to have autism has increased dramatically since the 1980s. Asperger’s Syndrome causes autistic-like behaviors and deficiencies in social and communication skills.~~~JESSICA’S ACCOMPLISHMENTS A decade ago, Jacksonville Mayor John Delaney declared June 15, 1999, Jessica Green Day for her accomplishments: – graduated from Ed White High School – played varsity softball and convinced the coach to let two other students with special needs try out for the team – attended Florida Community College at Jacksonville – played on the Jax Blast Youth Bowling League – befriended a child with autism who had not interacted with others before~~~Ride with Me for Autism Volunteers are needed April 25 for the second annual Ride with Me for Autism on the Jacksonville Baldwin Rail Trail, 1804 Imeson Road. Registration begins at 8 a.m. The fee is $35 for adults and $15 for children age 10 and under. Prices are discounted for early registration. Participants get a free T-shirt and refreshments during the ride. Live music, a bounce house, face painting and other festivities will take place after the ride. Also, representatives will be available from Autism Speaks and the Center for Autism Related Disabilities. The First Coast Chapter of the Florida State Massage Therapy Association will give massages for $10. A portion of the proceeds will go to the Jessica Green Foundation. E-mail ridewithme@bellsouth.net or visit www.jessicagreenfoundation.org/registration.php.

 

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